Best & worst… superminis
There's been plenty of activity in the supermini market recently, so here’s our pick of the best and worst cars in the class.
The difference between the best and the worst in this category is one of the most pronounced, so read on to find out the cars you should take a look at and those you should avoid.
The best of the best
The last time we looked at the best and worst superminis, the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo were both on the top five-star rating.
There's a new kid on the block, however, and it's rewritten the rules. The Audi A1 is so impressive that it's gone straight to the top of the class, knocked the Ford and VW down a peg and also taken our Car of the Year title for 2011.
It's a super-stylish package for those who don't want to buy big, but don't want to trade down on quality either.
Materials and build are both top-notch, while the A1 should be affordable to run. Resale values will be high, too, while our choice petrol returns an average of more than 53mpg.
Don't think for a second that it's slow, though. The peppy engine takes the car from 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds, and up to 126mph. It's brilliant to drive – it's not just fun, it's also refined.
What Car? pick of the Audi A1 range - Audi A1 1.4 TFSI Sport
The best of the rest
It might have dropped a star since last year, but the Ford Fiesta is still a brilliant supermini.
It looks cool, inside and out, comes pretty well equipped and is now more affordable to buy since prices were adjusted by Ford (and you can still get some cracking discounts).
Refinement is excellent and the Ford is also fun to drive, although some models are short on safety equipment and some of the interior plastics could be a bit more solid.
What Car? pick of the Ford Fiesta range - Ford Fiesta 1.25i 82 Zetec 5dr
A small car that's big on value - that's the i10. It's cheap to buy and cheap to run, but you won't feel short-changed as an i10 owner.
Every model get plenty of safety equipment and creature comforts such as air-conditioning. The i10 is also a decent car to drive around town and on country roads.
It's one of the smallest of our top five, so it's not brilliant on the motorway and while you won't get a wardrobe into the boot, you should be able to squeeze in the weekly shopping.
What Car? pick of the Hyundai i10 range - Hyundai i10 1.2 Comfort 5dr
The Polo is a grown-up supermini. It's comfortable, secure, safe, spacious and extremely classy.
It's not as much fun to drive as a Fiesta or A1, but there's more room in the cabin, and the purchase and running costs are seriously tempting.
We don't like the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol so much, but the 1.4-litre is flexible and easy to use around town, in the country or up and down the motorway.
What Car? pick of the Volkswagen Polo range - Volkswagen Polo 1.5 85 SE 5dr
The 500 obviously has its charming retro-styling to get you looking, but that's isn’t the only string to its bow.
The designer look doesn't mean designer-label prices. It's also very safe and equipment levels are decent. Again, like the i10, it's a tiny car, so while you'll be comfortable up front it does get quite tight in the rear and in the boot.
What Car? pick of the Fiat 500 range - Fiat 500 1.2 Pop S/S 3dr
A pair of Protons sit at the very bottom of our shopping list when it comes to superminis – the Savvy and Satria Neo.
Both get a one-star rating – the only in the supermini class – so they really are best avoided.
After that there are a few two-star superminis that leave us short of enthusiasm. The Chevrolet Aveo, Smart Fortwo, Mitsubishi i and Ford Fusion are all below par.
So, too, is the latest Nissan Micra, the newest of the bunch at this end of the market. It's good around town, but struggles on faster roads and the quality of the build and materials is low.